Saturday, May 30, 2015

An Open Letter to MaryEllen Elia - Appointed Commissioner of Education NYS
By:  Tony Felicio, Jr.

Dear Ms. Elia:
As President of the Connetquot Teachers Association, I would like to welcome you back to New York and congratulate you on your appointment as New York State Commissioner of Education. On behalf of my six-hundred members, good luck!

I would be less than honest if I said that your appointment as Commissioner makes me happy. After reviewing your record, it does not give me much hope for dramatic change here in New York State. From the beginning, I have been an opponent of Common Core and questioned the so-called “reformers” pushing for it. As I did more and more research on Common Core, spoke to parents, teachers, psychologists, and kids, I became even a more vocal opponent of it. I will not bore you with all of the reasons why I think it is a “scam,” but I will tell you that, to date, no one challenged by me has been able to give me any evidence that it works, nor any verifiable data that supports it. Let me be clear, regardless of how it was implemented, good, bad, or indifferent, it’s not good for kids and harms our public school system.

The concerns that I and many of my colleagues and parents, both here and across the State, have are stated below. How you address these concerns during your first few months as Commissioner will be very telling. Let me also be very clear, if you think that “communicating better” with parents and teachers will make a difference and garner support for ill-advised educational policies and laws, you are mistaken. A pig is a pig is a pig, no matter how much lipstick you put on it.
1. Your use of millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a teacher evaluation system using student standardized-test scores as a key metric. Here in NYS, anything associated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and education is unacceptable. If you follow the money trail, it all leads to privatization of our public schools.
2. Our understanding is that you also negotiated a merit pay system. Again, this creates competition between teachers and does nothing to enhance collaborative efforts among peers to improve the quality of education. Again, consistent with the entire Common Core, there is no verifiable data that shows that merit pay works, and in fact there are studies that show just the opposite. Merit pay is a great political sound bite, but does nothing to improve education.
3. You support school choice. No matter what you call it, school choice, charter schools, special schools, etc., you damage the public school system by taking money away from public schools so that these “choice” schools get proper funding.
4. Without hesitation you are a proponent of the Gates-funded Common Core State Standards. Other than hearing proponents talk about them being more rigorous and being better able to get kids to think “deeper,” no one has been able to come up with anything more. I have been challenging my students and getting them to think “deeper” for thirty-three years and I didn’t need it to be called anything. It’s simply good teaching.
5. It is our understanding that you supported a formula so that a certain percentage of teachers could be fired. Numbers like 5% have been talked about. It is my understanding that this never came to fruition, but was part of your agenda. This sounds very similar to the rhetoric and sound bites of our Governor. Keep in mind, his approval ratings are down to around 35/40%.
6. You are caught hook, line, and sinker by the corporate “reform” movement. How will you assure parents, teachers, and all educators that you are not?
7. You were an early proponent of high stakes testing and utilizing those tests to evaluate teachers. 200,000 opt-outs and climbing. Enough said!

I will finish by stating the following. You have a tremendous opportunity to play a major role in changing the direction of public education here in New York State and move it back in a direction to where teachers feel empowered to use their professional skills inside their classrooms and do the jobs they love to do with their kids. You have the chance to give back local control to school districts who know what is best for their communities and children. You also have the opportunity to garner the support of parents, teachers, and educators throughout the State unlike ever before, and to be the torch bearer, fighting for our students, teachers, parents, and communities.

We have been beaten down by the so-called “reformers” with their deep pockets, media that has no idea what it’s like to be in a classroom, and the politicians who have used public educators as punching bags for their own political ambitions. The masses are willing and able to stand with you and support you if changes are positive and those concerns raised above are addressed by you in a public and transparent way. If not, although we have been beaten and bloodied, there remains much fight in all of us; if we must fight to protect our kids, students, and professions, fight we will!

Tony Felicio, Jr.
Connetquot Teachers Association

I'm a good teacher but that doesn't matter
By: Anonymous BAT

Tonight was graduation for the high school I work at. I was asked by a few of my senior students to be the person who hands them their diploma on stage. It is such an honor that they chose me over anyone else, especially since this is only my 3rd year in the school and I wasn't even there for their entire high school experience.

Parents tonight thanked me for helping their kid make it through. I received flowers. Graduating seniors, as well as past students, hugged me, thanked me and acknowledged the difference I made to them.

Tonight was a great night. It helped to affirm that what I do everyday matters...that it makes a difference. It reassured me that both students and parents value me as a teacher.
Tonight was also heartbreaking... because due to a corrupt administration, and false evaluations, it is very unlikely that I will be a teacher at this school next year. Although they have until June 15th to let us know, the superintendent let many of us know that we are unlikely to have our contract renewed and be tenured.

I am a good teacher. My students have won many awards. I've been recognized nationally for my teaching. The data that we've been forced to collect has consistently shown a 99% increase when the district goal is to show at least an 80% increase. I've grown a dying program into one in which each of my classes is full and many aren't even able to get into my classes due to space limitations. It isn't because I am easy. There are no easy A's in my classes. Students know it's going to require a lot of time and work but that if they put the time and effort into it, aside from receiving a deserving grade, they will also learn much about the subject, themselves and life.

I am a good teacher. I know it, my students know it, their parents know it and I know administration must know it. But they don't care. I am likely going to lose my job and it has nothing to do with my teaching ability. I am a good teacher and the students deserve to have me as their teacher...and I deserve to be able to teach them.

I'm a good teacher but that doesn't matter...because I'm probably going to lose my job.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


By:  UndercoverBAT

I enter my home, my hands overflowing with all of my end of year stuff. It’s not enough that you have to do report cards, student records, and everything else for the end of the year, but I take it upon myself to do a special present for all my kids too.

Because I don’t have enough on my plate, and I don’t spend enough money on my kids as it is.
So my hands are overflowing. Things are trying to fall out of the teacher bag over my shoulder, and I set it all down. Because really, that’s not what I’m thinking about.

Today I lost my  job.

There. There it is in print. Today I lost my job.

Today I lost my job. Today.I.Lost.My.Job. I lost my job. I lost my job I lost my job I lost my job oh my God I LOST MY JOB.

I have suspected this day was coming; I’ve seen the writing on the wall. And even with my undercover status, I’m not the person the administration’s looking for, and I know that. But I wanted the choice to leave to be mine, and I’ve been trying to make it mine. But no one would call back. No one would return an email. And I was starting to resign myself to the fact that leaving wasn’t going to be an option.

And now leaving is the only option.

Because they told me so.

The thing is, I know I’m not a horrible teacher. I’m not the world’s best teacher, but I’m a pretty damn good teacher. And my kids leave my class knowing a lot more than ABCs and 123s. And I’ve got several years’ worth of students in that building to prove that.


That’s not the way the game works. It’s about politics. It’s about who you’re friends with, and who you’re not friends with.

Standing up for children is irrelevant.

Caring about children is irrelevant.

Today I lost my job.

Today I also got the information about how my summer paychecks will work. Except mine won’t work that way for me because I lost my job. And I got a letter that tells how long my health insurance lasts. And it really sunk in that this could be it. These next few days could be the last days that I’m a teacher. The job market isn’t good. I’m now in a class where I’m too expensive to be hired, like I’m cattle at the market. My human capital isn’t worth it.

So this might be it. And while part of me is really like maybe this should be it, maybe I should get another job, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t even know how I would go about it. And for God’s sake, what would I do with all of this teacher stuff? Oh my God.

So the night that you find out you’ve lost your job, obviously what you should do to feel better is go back to your classroom and start tearing it down. Start taking down all those things you’ve had since the beginning of your teaching career that you use every year, in every classroom you’ve ever had, no matter what school, what state, what city. Those things have been carried with you. Maybe this was their last go round. It’s hard to tell. Maybe they won’t be used again. Maybe they will. But maybe they won’t.

I filled my car tonight. I’m going to fill my car for the next few nights. Because I’ve got to take everything with me. And everything is a lot.

There have been times today where I’ve been very matter-of-fact, and there have been times where all of a sudden it just hits me in a wave, and there’s something in my eye, and I just happen to need a tissue.

Today I lost my job.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


More Information Contact:
Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager, BATs
Melissa Tomlinson, Asst General Manager, BATs
Badass Teachers Association -

NY BATs –  New York Education Commissioner  – No Good for NYS Kids!

The New York Badass Teachers Association, is a diverse pro-public education organization of 3,287 members.  It is the state affiliate of the Badass Teachers Association, currently 55,328 strong nationwide.

NY BATs strongly denounce the appointment of MaryEllen Elia as the new Commissioner of Education in New York.  Assemblyman James Tedisco stated, “Today, the Regents jumped the shark and appointed an anti-education Common Core defender as New York State Education Commissioner. The new Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, was terminated in January from her position as Superintendent  of Schools in Hillsborough County Florida.”

Retired New York teacher and special education advocate, Terry Kalb, “Elia's board in Florida was willing to pay a million dollars for her to leave- that should have given the Regents reason to look elsewhere when there are so many excellent candidates who are NY public education superintendents. The parents of NY were promised an open process. Instead, there was an "emergency" meeting behind closed doors, and no public vetting. New York students deserve better than a Superintendent who was run out of town.”

NY parent and teacher Marla Kilfoyle asks, “Where is the process and transparency that parents and teachers were promised?”

MaryEllen Elia comes to NY by way of Hillsborough County,  Florida where she was an ardent supporter of evaluating teachers on test scores, merit pay, and Common Core.  NY BAT Michael Hirsh said,  "The newly appointed commissioners stand and key educational issues is crystal clear, well documented, and go against everything the people of New York have loudly indicated they wish to see. She is an avid supporter of high stakes testing, who has little compassion for high needs students. She uses heavy handed tactics to push through her disconnected agenda and is certainly not the right candidate for the job."

We are not optimistic.  Reports from our Florida BATs and parents are not positive.  They report she has a record of ignoring parents of special needs students and high suspension/discipline rates for children of color happened under her watch. “Without a doubt, this district (Hillsborough) has built one of the worst school-to-prison pipelines in the state of Florida,” said community activist Marilyn Williams, who last year filed a federal complaint against the school district, which is now being investigated, over possible racial disparities in school discipline.   

The children of New York deserve better and the Board of Regents has once again let them down! 



  • New York's Board of Regents, tasked with fixing the current problems of teacher evaluations, Common Core Curriculum, and useless Testing measures, voted today to hire someone (who was fired from their last job) as the new Commissioner of Education. This person does not respect the demands of parents or teachers and favors private charter schools over public education. 

    Way to go Regents! You finally had the chance to fix the problems in New York and you blew it! I don't want to hear one word of criticism towards teachers. Anyone who is either incapable or unwilling to make decisions for the good of the people, should never have the right to criticize those who struggle to meet your ridiculous mandate.   Ann MacAbee

  • The Board of Regents bypassed public notice, public comment and public debate in fast-tracking the appointment of a commissioner shrouded in controversy and baggage. This signals yet another use of naked power to push through corporate reforms without the knowledge or consent of the governed. The Chancellor thumbed her nose at a rising tide of actively engaged parents and educators seeking to unyoke our children from high stakes tests and counterproductive regulations. And just when the state needed an inclusive, deliberative process to restore credible leadership to a floundering, divided education system, we instead see a major escalation of the conflict, setting the stage for larger, longer and louder protests.  Jake Jacob

  • The appointment of MaryEllen Elia is another slap in the face to everyone concerned with public education in NYS. The Regents had a chance to support students, parents, and teachers in public education. Instead they chose a corporate reformer who clearly is in love with high stakes testing, VAM and CC$$. I'm greatly disappointed in the Regents. These people are supposed to want what's best for the students. None of what Elia pushes is good for kids.  Lesa Aloan Wilbert

  •  Are the NY Regents dumpster diving? This is not what was meant by reduce, reuse, recycle.This search and appointment was a failure.#NYRegentsFail . This candidate, if she can't handle Florida is unacceptable for NYS.  Aixa Rodriguez

  • Just another day in the campaign against teachers built by the "Cuomo Foundation". But we will continue to fight the good fight... for our children. 360 degrees of incompetence!  Daliz Vasquez

  •  New York couldn't do any better than someone who was last fired from her job? Are there so few competent people out there? Or is the goal to find someone hostile to the needs of teachers and students?  Ian Berger

  • Given Elia's ardent support of loathed corporate reforms that have no basis in research and no effective results anywhere, it boggles the mind how the board of regents can unanimously approve this appointment. Newly elected members of the regents previously provided a glimmer of hope that parents, teachers and students would have a voice. Once again the public has been duped. Words are meaningless if they do not coincide with logical action. This move sends us a clear signal that business as usual is alive and well.   William Cala

  • The Board of Regents missed a perfect opportunity to put NYS back on the map in positive light. There have been 200 thousand test refusals, record numbers of well attended education forums, and the passing of a record high number of school budget votes. It is clear where the public wants the focus to be in our public schools. Using inappropriate tests as a means to punish schools and teachers is not what the public wants.  Barbara Lynn

  •  If her past record is an indication of how she'll perform in this new position, NYS will see its test refusal numbers go through the roof. NYS parens are not to be underestimated.  Carrie Gilroy

  • As a parent of a child with special needs I am disappointed, yet again, in the board's choice. This is another failure on behalf of our most vulnerable populations. All in the name of corporate agenda! Our children deserve more and the parents of New York are willing to fight. In the past I was thankful to live in this state because of our leadership in special education policy. Now we have become another place where anything that doesn't fit the big corporate picture is swept under the rug and rolled up to be discarded with the trash. This is truly a violation of basic human rights.  Alison Steixner

  •  Once again the regents had no transparency in the process. Her record, not her interview, speaks for itself-- supporting merit pay, high stakes tests, micromanaging her staff and a general disregard for special Ed students. What a disappointment.  Diane Venezia Livingston

  •  Who else did they interview and what are the reasons they say are behind their choice? She is clearly more of the same, or worse..... how do they explain themselves do families and educators across the state who made it clear that more of the same is not acceptable?  Doug Selwyn

  • The New York State government and Board of Regents has sunk to new lows in its appointing of an education official who was fired from her last job. Why should we trust her with the education of our children?  Kirsten Wehmann Berger

Common Core Does Not Cure Student Mobility


We have real problems.

We need real solutions.

But we get deceptions instead. And if anyone tries to complain, they get blamed for trying to avoid solving the problem!

Take Common Core.

Badly designed, unproven, flying in the face of human psychology. It is all that and more.

However, there’s a good reason for its existence – student mobility.

We have too many children attending our public schools that don’t stay put. They move from district-to-district and therefore miss valuable instruction.

And that’s no deception.

This is a real problem that we need to do something to fix. But before any experts in the field – psychologists, sociologists, or (God forbid!) educators – can speak, billionaire philanthropists chime in with Common Core.

If we just had national standards for each grade level in each core subject, they say, it would greatly reduce the amount of material transient students miss.

If an 8th grade student at School A moves to School B, for instance, Common Core would ensure that he misses virtually nothing. Both schools would be teaching the same thing.

Good try. But it doesn’t work.

Common Core only ensures that the same standards are taught in each school during a single year. If a transfer student’s old teacher hasn’t gotten to something yet and his new teacher has already covered it, he might miss the concept entirely – even with Common Core.

Take it from me.

I am a teacher in a state that has adopted Common Core-look-alike standards. I get many transfer students from Common Core states. There is a definite and often profound gap in their grasp of the material.
Pause for a moment and digest that.

Common Core – as it is now – does not solve the problem of student mobility.

However, if we reinterpret that concept, if we appeal to the spirit of the Core, we may find a “solution” to this problem. And in some places this has already begun.

Our billionaire philanthropist friend might look at this problem and say, we need to further homogenize the curriculum at both schools. Educators at both districts should teach the exact same things at the exact same times. On Sept 12, all 8th grade instructors should teach about figurative language. On Sept 13, there will be a lesson on text structures, and so on.

In fact, having the same curriculum at two schools is not enough. We need to coordinate the curriculum at ALL public schools.

But even if we do that at our public schools, there will be gaps for transient students. A student who left School A after Sept. 12 would have had a lesson on figurative language, but what form did the lesson take? It may have been ineffective. Perhaps the text used by the teacher was subpar. Perhaps the teacher didn’t explain the lesson sufficiently. There is just too much room for human error.

What we need, explains the philanthropist – who incidentally made his billions designing computer systems and is not known for mastery of the human psyche – what we need is uniformity. In short, we need scripted lessons.

Then-and-only-then will transient students miss the least possible curriculum moving from one school to another.

Of course this assumes the move from School A to School B is nearly instantaneous. Day 1 you’re at the old school. Day 2 you’re at the new school. But this rarely happens. Under the best circumstances it can take a week or two. Realistically, I’ve seen students who have been out of school months even a whole academic year between moves.

Yes, Mr. Gate…  – I mean the philanthropist – may admit reluctantly, transient students will still inevitably miss some school work. The transition from School A to School B may take a couple days, maybe months, but scripted lessons will reduce the gap to the absolute minimum.

And here, he may be correct.

Common Core taken to its logical and extreme conclusion – scripted lessons – may solve student mobility.

Or so it seems.

But is the cure worse than the disease?

If all public school students have scripted, uniform, standardized lessons, what will happen to the quality of those lessons?

As the holder of a masters degree in education, as a recipient of a National Board Certification in teaching, as a teacher with over a decade of experience in the classroom, I say this: the quality of education will plummet under these conditions.

Everyone will suffer – transient students, non-transient students, EVERYONE.

The best possible learning environment is NOT one in which teachers read from a script. It is NOT one where teachers stick to the lesson plan come Hell or high water. It is NOT one where the educator has little to no say in what she is teaching.

It is important to have academic standards, just as it’s important to have lesson plans. However, these MUST be created by the teachers, themselves. Otherwise they imprison instructors in straight jackets and make them less – not more – effective.

Anyone who has spent any time in front of a class knows that good instruction necessitates instant changes in the lesson to meet the needs of your students. You can plan – and you should plan – but you have to be free to move beyond it.

For instance, if you’re teaching students how to write a complete sentence and you have some children who do not understand what a subject and a verb are, you need to adapt. Immediately. On the spot. Otherwise, your lesson will fail.

If you’re asking your students to perform a close read of a science text and they cannot read, you must adapt. Immediately. That very second. Or else you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Rigid academic standards cannot do this. Sacrosanct lesson plans cannot do this. Only teachers can.
This is one of the major areas where Common Core fails.

But what of our transient students? Won’t we fail them if we repeal Common Core?

No. There is a better way. But more on that in a moment.

Say Common Core is the only way. Say scripted curriculum is the only manner in which to meet their needs. It would still be better to get rid of Common Core to meet the needs of the non-transients. Moreover, even transient children will benefit, because the education they receive when they are in a given school will be of a higher quality than the minimally interrupted lessons they’d receive with national academic standards and scripted lessons.

However, let us return to the better solution. Because there is one, and it is easy to see when you aren’t blinded by billionaire’s pet projects.

Instead of homogenizing everyone’s schools to help transient students, reduce the instances of transience.

That’s right. Reduce student mobility.

Stop so many children from moving from school-to-school.

That’s impossible, whines our billionaire savior.

No. It’s not.

You may never be able to stop every student from moving between schools, but you can greatly reduce it.

All it takes is an examination of the root causes.

Why are so many students transient?

It turns out this is a symptom of a larger problem affecting the majority of our public school students. If you can help alleviate this problem – even slightly – you’d greatly increase students’ chances of success.

That problem? Child poverty.

Students don’t move around to see the world. They do it because their parents can’t get a job or can’t afford to live where they are.

If you undertook programs to create more jobs for their parents, you would decrease student mobility. If you provided cheap, safe, stable housing, you would decrease mobility. If you started social programs to bring transients into a community and stop them from being eternal outsiders, many more of them would put down roots.

And if you helped reduce child poverty, you would actually increase the quality of education most children are receiving – even the ones not constantly on the move.

We used to understand that poverty isn’t a defect of character – it’s a product of circumstance. We used to understand that most poor people aren’t to blame for their own poverty. We used to understand that a helping hand is better than a pointed finger.

Common Core is just another great lie told to obscure these simple truths.

Student mobility is just another excuse given to justify this lie.

The time for deceptions and half-truths has passed. Instead, we need to roll up our sleeves and actually do something about poverty.

It’s time to leave Common Core to the pages of history’s failed social engineering experiments.

Because we don’t need national academic standards.

We need a shared morality.

NOTE: Thank you to all my readers who responded to my article “Data Abuse – When Transient Kids Fall Through the Cracks of Crunched Numbers.” Today’s article is the result of your efforts to push me to revisit this subject. Being a blogger isn’t just about writing articles and putting them out there. It’s also about creating a community and entering into a dialogue. I am so grateful to the people who read what I write and engage with it. I can’t do this without you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Declaration for Education
By:  Cheryl Gibbs Binkley

To:   The Education Policy makers, Corporate Reformers, Governors, Mayors,  National and State Legislators on both sides of the Aisles, Venture Philanthropists,  Non-Educator Think Tank Theorists, and those who back them, from the very top Government Officials and Venture Philanthropists to every paid employee who serves them.

We the People, have let you know through e-mails, posts, tweets, phone calls, marches, rallies, and Opting Out that:

             The tests that you are insisting measure our children are statistically invalid, have no instructional value and are draining money away from real learning.

             Yet you continue

             The Standards which you have been sold are developmentally inappropriate and are stripping our children’s lives of the things children need most: active learning, color, music, play and wide ranging curiosity.

             Yet you continue

             Forcing children, some of them with language issues, learning disabilities, and developmental delays, to sit and look at walls, waiting for a test that is deliberately only used to label them failing is child abuse.

             Yet you continue

             The data you collect on our children is neither a reflection of who they are, nor does it belong to you for mining, manipulation, or misuse.

             Yet you continue

             Manipulating test data through floating cut scores, arbitrary formulas, and random selection of measures for the sake of creating a market is neither capitalism nor democracy, but fraud at the cost of children.

             Yet you continue


             Refusing our schools funding unless we agree to your egregious practices is theft of tax dollars already paid, and corruption of the worst kind.

             Yet you continue

             Draining billions of dollars from classrooms and schools into global corporate testing companies who neither provide appropriately constructed tests, nor quality scoring, nor reliable test delivery is financial malfeasance.

             Yet you continue


             Filling our schools with untrained temp teachers, from non-profit in name only companies, temps who are unable to deliver an orderly classroom, much less high quality instruction, stunts our children’s academic growth.

             Yet you continue

             Every school you starve through underfunding and then close disrupts our communities and destroys the fabric of our society.

             Yet you continue

             Every building you confiscate to give to your donors for publicly funded but private use is graft and corruption of the most unethical kind and deprives our communities of needed spaces for services and education.

             Yet you continue

             Every group of teachers of experience, color, ethnic diversity, or youthful enthusiasm that you rif, lay-off, or drive from the profession deprives our communities of the skilled and committed mentors and learning our children need.

             Yet you continue

             Every local board in poor communities you strip of democratic control is an act of biased dictatorship.

             Yet you continue

             Funneling ever more money into paid PR campaigns, and crony-ist media to defend these indefensible actions and to discredit the voice of parents, teachers, and local citizens is propaganda and disinformation of the most dishonest kind.

             Yet you continue

             The goal of turning our children into obedient low-wage workers, willing to carry out your pre-determined goals and increase profits to your companies is not an acceptable model of education for our children or our nation’s future.

             Yet you continue


You must Stop this Malevolent Attack on our children and their schools. We insist that you cease and desist your aristocratic-style management of our local and personal lives, and that you drop the egregious Corporate Education Reform actions that you have been implementing. You may not practice Noblesse Oblige as though it were Democracy.

We are not plebians, or peons, or peasants, or serfs. We walked and sailed thousands of miles to come here in order for our children and grandchildren to have a better life with a meaningful education and fulfilling work. We fought a revolution to declare our independence and freedom. We built a nation through paid and unpaid labor.  We established a society and culture that became a model for all time, and have established our schools to prevent our children from ever becoming the huddled and disenfranchised masses again.  We educated ourselves to higher levels every generation in order to become worthy citizens, and created the greatest public education system ever known to humanity in order to make sure ALL our children receive the best possible education, and that our society might ever become a better environment in which to live.

You may not treat us as the peasant class. Your access to elite circles and money does not grant you that privilege because We are the People. 

It is Our Government, and Our Schools.  You may not have them.